- Each year more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. While we have made tremendous strides in survival rates the simple fact is that the earlier a cancer is detected – the better the odds of recovery become. For this reason, women over 40 are advised to partake in annual mammograms which are the standard test for early detection. If these tests are misread and cancer is allowed to grow due to a doctor missing dangerous developments then it could be considered medical malpractice.
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According to the National Cancer Institute, each year more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. Tragically, breast cancer remains a leading cause of death in women ages 40-60.
While breast cancer can be fatal, early detection often means a better prognosis. The best indicator of prognosis is the clinical stage at the time of diagnosis. The 5-year disease-free survival rate for breast cancer patients who receive appropriate treatment is:
Stage 0 – 95%
Stage I – 88%
Stage II – 66%
Stage III – 36%
Stage IV – 7%
Breast cancer symptoms may include:
- A breast lump or mass felt upon examination.
- A lump in the armpit.
- A change in breast size or shape.
- A change in breast or nipple color, often an orange or reddish shade.
- Nipple pain or discharge.
- Nipple inversion.
- A change in breast skin texture, often dimpled or puckered in appearance.
As the previous statistics indicate, when breast cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, women, fortunately, have very high 5-year disease-free survival rates.
TYPES OF BREAST CANCER
Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS) :
Characterized by abnormal cells that start in the cells which line the ducts of the breasts, but do not invade into the breast tissue. DCIS is sometimes referred to as non-invasive breast cancer.
Invasive or Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (ICS):
This is the most common type of breast cancer. It starts in the cells that line a breast duct, but then grows into the breast tissue and spreads.
Invasive or Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma (ILC):
ILC cancer starts in the cells that line the breast milk glands, which are called lobules. These cancer cells can grow through the wall of the lobule and spread to adjacent lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC):
This is a rare form of breast cancer which makes the breast skin look red and feel warm. With IBC, the breast skin can also look thick or pitted. Oftentimes, there is no palpable mass.
In addition to patient breast self-exams and clinical breast exams by medical professionals, screening mammograms are essential to the early detection of breast cancer. A mammogram is simply a specialized x-ray of the breast that can detect potential breast cancers long before physical symptoms, such as a lump, can be felt. It is for this reason that the American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older undergo an annual screening mammogram.
In the event that a suspicious abnormality is identified on a screening mammogram, other diagnostic testing, such as a biopsy is often performed.
BREAST CANCER MALPRACTICE
Unfortunately, preventable mistakes can be made when interpreting a screening mammogram. Common examples of preventable mistakes include the failure to properly identify the following suspicious findings on a mammogram:
- Clustered microcalcifications.
- Irregularly shaped spiked or spicular masses.
- A new mass not previously seen on a prior mammogram.
- Shape or size differences between the breasts.
In addition to mistakes made in interpreting a mammogram, patients can also be denied an early diagnosis if:
- Vigilant evaluation and regular monitoring of a palpable breast lump is not performed.
- Improperly relying on a negative mammogram to rule out cancer in a woman who has a palpable breast lump.
- Failing to order required follow-up diagnostic testing, such as specialized radiologic imaging, fine needle aspiration and/or a surgical biopsy
- Failing to obtain a proper sampling when performing a fine needle aspiration and/or a surgical biopsy.
- Mistakes in pathologic interpretation of specimens obtained by a fine needle aspiration and/or a surgical biopsy.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer despite undergoing regular gynecologic evaluation and screening mammograms, you have the right to question whether something was missed. We can help you find answers as we understand that a delay in the diagnosis of your breast cancer may have made a big difference in your outcome.